The Dis­ney That Never Was


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Dis­ney’s An­i­mal King­dom is a won­der­fully im­mer­sive en­vi­ron­ment where guest can ex­plore lands and an­i­mals from around the world – or even from back in time. Soon, with the open­ing of PANDORA – The World of Avatar, an­i­mals that ex­ist only in fan­tasy will come to life. But did you know that the orig­i­nal plans for WDW’S fourth park in­cluded a mag­i­cal, mys­ti­cal land called Beastly King­dom?

This not-so-se­cret plan has been hid­ing for years in plain sight. Have you ever no­ticed that An­i­mal King­dom sig­nage in­cludes a dragon along with other an­i­mals you can see in the park? Or that one of the park­ing lot sec­tions is named af­ter the Uni­corn?

Here you can see a tran­script from a press con­fer­ence where Michael Eis­ner, Joe Rhode and oth­ers first an­nounced plans for An­i­mal King­dom. It in­cluded a set of mytho­log­i­cal crea­tures, in­clud­ing the in­fa­mous Loch Ness Mon­ster!

Over the years, it was ru­mored (whether from of­fi­cial sources or fan’s imag­i­na­tions run wild) that Beat­stly King­dom would in­clude any com­bi­na­tion of a “good side” with uni­corns, cen­taurs, and pe­gasi, an “evil side” with fire breath­ing drag­ons, a Dragon Tower Coaster, a Quest for the Uni­corn maze, a Fan­ta­sia Gar­dens at­trac­tion, and more.

But, the An­i­mal King­dom bud­get ran dry and the plans for Beastly King­dom were put on the back burner for years. Ul­ti­mately, the land was used for the very sparse Camp Mickey Min­nie un­til its clo­sure in 2014. Re­port­edly, many of the imag­i­neers slated to work on Beastly King­dom left to work at Uni­ver­sal’s Wizard­ing World of Harry Pot­ter.

It never got past con­cept art, but you can see in Joe Rhode’s orig­i­nal con­cept are that the fi­nal lay­out of the park is quite sim­i­lar to to­day. Here, the Tree of Life sits at the back of Dis­cov­ery Is­land, Ex­pe­di­tion Ever­est is miss­ing, there is a set of tracks in Di­noland that don’t ap­pear to­day (stay tuned for more on that in a fu­ture issue), and there is def­i­nitely a space near Africa that Beastly King­dom (or should we say, Beast­lie King­domme) would have fit into quite nicely.

This closeup shows Nessie and a roller coaster track (per­haps once the Beastly King­dom was scrapped, the park de­cided to build the big coaster in Asia?).

It turns out that in 1995 there was a book pub­lished about Dis­ney Parks called Since the World Be­gan and on page 171, there is an im­age of the Loch Ness mon­ster. Ap­par­ently Joe Rhode made sure this im­age was in­cluded in the book in the hopes that it would in­crease the chances of the land be­ing built.

Ac­cord­ing to Imag­i­neer Paul Tor­ringo on Mouse­planet, the Nessie was in­tended to be a prop for a restau­rant:

One other thing I'll men­tion, one of my fa­vorites—out­side at the side of the cas­tle in an­other part of the land, we had a restau­rant on a lake and the whole lit­tle area was based on myth­i­cal sea crea­tures, I think it was called Loch Ness Land­ing, (Karen Ar­mitage did the fi­nal in­te­rior restau­rant de­sign) and any­way, in the la­goon we were go­ing to have the Loch Ness mon­ster ap­pear (to the dis­tant sound of bag­pipes) from time to time. First you would hear a strange sound from the wa­ter, then bub­bling would start, then you'd see the humps of the back of the crea­ture sur­fac­ing, then fi­nally the gi­ant head would rise up out of the wa­ter and gaze at all the peo­ple on shore. What a photo spot!

I made a bunch of con­cep­tual ren­der­ings and lit­tle sculp­tures for it and then Gene Wisker­son sculpted the crea­ture in a big­ger scale a cou­ple of times to get it just the way Joe wanted it. I was re­ally dis­ap­pointed we didn't get to do it; I think it would have been great.

Paul Tor­ringo also spoke about “The Dragon Ride” – re­veal­ing that the story cen­tered around an evil dragon who rav­aged a medieval cas­tle long ago, and still lived there in a huge cham­ber guard­ing his trea­sure. Bats who lived in the cas­tle had armed them­selves with medieval weaponry to fight the dragon for the trea­sure. It was in­tended to be a sus­pended coaster, housed in an im­mensed, ru­ined cas­tle com­plete with in­ter­ac­tive queues, an­i­mated char­ac­ters, and the kids of de­tailed them­ing we’ve come to ex­pect in An­i­mal King­dom.

An ex­te­rior river ride would con­tinue the story, and here the dragon would breathe fire at pass­ing boats.

One the “good” side of Beastly King­dom, guest would have found them­selves in an elab­o­rate maze with the goal of find­ing a uni­corn. There was also sup­posed to be a flume ride in this area. The Beastly King­dom land would have been ab­so­lutely mas­sive.

Al­though now it seems that the Beastly King­dom has be­come a part of the Dis­ney That Never Was, we’re look­ing for­ward to how PANDORA - The World of Avatar can bring to life An­i­mal King­dom’s orig­i­nal in­ten­tion of pre­sent­ing an­i­mals - real, ex­tinct, and imag­i­nary.

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